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The Rule of Engagement: Connect with Consumers



By Suzanne and Bob Grayson, Grayson Associates



Published May 1, 2009
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Plain and simple, the practice of engaging a consumer with some factor of persuasion is what marketing is really all about. Ultimately, it is how we go about this that separates the good guys from the also-rans. The day of Sgt. Friday’s “Just the facts ma’am” have pretty much passed with the demise of Dragnet—except, of course, in tech ads where, regardless of the subject, “mine is bigger than yours” rules the roost.

There are several touch-points to reach consumers,(which is how many ad budgets are calculated; i.e., reach and frequency is the hallmark for media buying). Okay, so you reach them by the numbers with magazines, internet, TV and so on. But good and impactful advertising should be about engaging consumers. Within each medium, there are a variety of ways to “engage.” You can engage with a startling headline, arresting graphic, artful copy or cause marketing. And each of these can be blown up to dominate the ad. Yet, it’s quite remarkable how few beauty ads truly engage the consumer.

This ad for Olay Regenerist tells women that the product is the best.
In TheAdAudit, which appears bimonthly in Happi, engagement is a key element of the analysis protocol. With so many ads missing that emotional component, no wonder so many print ads are lacking in effectiveness. The vast majority of beauty industry ads are left brain centric—rational/logical with few appeals to feelings and emotions. Many an ad drops down in rating having missed that point.

One method of engagement is “the story.” Telling a story can be persuasive, involving, compelling and memorable, like no other communication. It can create a warm and fuzzy feeling, spark a sense of wonder, titillate the mind, create a call to action and so on. Going back in history, David Ogilvy used this technique with Mercedes while Oil of Olay built the brand with ads of a thousand words. And today, where would Strivectin be without its compelling story? Yes, the story of “how a stretch cream became the No. 1 skin cream,” is still making news, long after “Better than Botox?” was the great lead-in to the “engagement” answer to the question.

A Long History of Stories


So, let us set out to make the case for this type of communication. Stories, per se, have their foundation going back thousands of years as the only method of providing learning and history. Fast-forward to last night when your child asked you to read a story. Why? Yes, that “story” per se is the logical answer, but the unspoken reason is to keep you there with him longer in order to bond/ engage. Stories are in our DNA. And the big bonus is that good story advertisements engage you to the very end.

Stories teach, share values, provide meaning and ultimately lead us down a path to action.But, in case we misled you, stories don’t have to be long-copy advertisments. There is a compelling story with Nike. “Just do it!” You write the copy (your story) every time you see the logo or tie up your sneakers.

In sum, stories provide engagement by reporting experiences, opinions and hearsay to provide a true connection to the reader’s emotions.Next time, ask yourself, “Is this ad talking to me, or to millions?”

Hoping to illustrate a “story” ad, we searched the current issues of Vogue, Elle, Allure, Glamour, etc., but alas, we were unable to find even one example. We did find one that attempted engagement by borrowing the authority of magazine “awards” to cite the superiority of Regenerist products.Olay expectation is that the reader will be engaged to read “who said what” about Regenerist products. Not a story, but powerful, none the less.Women always look to an authority to answer the question, “what’s the best?” There you go.

Time Out


Peter Drucker, who wrote dozens of books on management and is credited with founding the industry of management consulting, was, during his active business career, a consultant to almost every one of the Fortune 100s. The Daily Drucker 366 Days is a distillation of his most important thoughts. Every so often we run across pithy insights that, in a few words, give us plenty to ponder. Thumbing through The Daily Drucker 366 Days, there were a few that we’d like to pass on:
• Strategy is a sense of direction around which to improvise.
• People who don’t take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.
• People who do take risks generally make two big mistakes a year.
•What’s measured improves.
•Management by objective works–if you know the objective.
By the way, nowhere in those 366 pages did Drucker write, “At the end of the day…”

Surviving the Recession


Marketing in a Downturn, was the subject of a smashing seminar under the auspices of The Fragrance Foundation. Obviously we can’t cover it all, and there is a full write-up in the March issue by Nancy Jeffries, a great new contributor to Happi. We’d just like to stress a couple of highlights:

• Significant emphasis on touch-points and the need for an emotional connection. Dr. Robert Passikoff (Brand Keys) listed 26 potential points of contact ranging from an article to yellow pages. Using the baby boomers (44-63 years of age), he put percentages on the engagement value of each media. The top three were word of mouth, in-store promotion and experiential promotions.And he stressed the need for a mix of media.

• Borrowed equity—a celebrity—has diminishing returns for fragrances. If Dr. Passikoff is correct, and he may be, does that also apply to cosmetics where new celebrities abound?

• The consumer’s willingness to shop has diminished according to a 1,500 person internet survey by WSL Strategic Retail, reported by Candace Corlett. The “battered” shopper is avoiding shopping in stores where they are tempted to overspend. The list starts with malls (67%), department stores (56%) and ends with drug stores (12%).

Trading Down


While the WSL survey indicates that only 26% of the respondents were “trading down” in cosmetics, we say the percentage is much higher, that’s because many prestige consumers will more likely say they are “smartening up” rather than “trading down” when it comes to their cosmetics purchases.

They will also feel very comfortable in drug stores as that’s where they started their beauty purchases—and they are in those stores for other reasons, anyway—an extra bonus in these time-pressed days. The $64,000 question is, after they have satisfied their left brain logic, will they return to prestige outlets for emotional gratification/psychic income when conditions “normalize?” When you have sea changes in distribution, independent of the economy, our answer is: most likely not enough to support the real estate involved.

After the bad news, came a few suggestions on how to fight back during a recession. These are the strategies, and while the devil is in the execution, a common thread runs through them all: Focus on the consumer. “Feel their pain,” “Share their values,” “Make them notice,” and “Keep them in the brand.” Tough to do, but worth it!

All in all, it was a very worthwhile event. Can’t wait for the next one, Riding the Wave of Prosperity. Whenever it is appropriate.

About the Authors
Suzanne and Bob Grayson are respected, professional marketers, having spent their careers with the leading companies in the beauty industry before starting their successful consulting business in the early 1970s. Their consulting clients have included Avon, Bristol-Myers, Estée Lauder, Procter & Gamble, Revlon and Cover Girl, among others. They reside in San Juan Capistrano, CA and maintain an office in New York City. For more information, they can be reached at bob@graysonassociates.com or suzanne@graysonassociates.com


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